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Monthly Archives: April 2012

One of Those Cooking Days & Getting Ready for the HoCo Markets to Open

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Since I got the CSA delivery yesterday, I realized I needed to do something with all the goodies, from this week and last. The freezer is bare of stocks. I used the last one for soup a week ago using chicken thighs I bought at Roots. I also had eggs galore and beets from this week.

I dry roast my beets. Washed and placed on a bed of salt. Ninety minutes in the oven for beets this size, at 350 degrees.

They will be used for something like this, using the CSA oranges and spring onion.

The eggs will go into an egg salad for lunches. Doing these leaves me with 20 eggs until the farmer’s market opens.

As for making beef stock, I chopped up the ugliest carrots, used up the celery and last week’s leeks, and the end of last week’s spring onions to make the base.

Added my herbs and plopped in the frozen beef bones bought at Wagner’s in Mt. Airy a while back. Using these bones frees up quite a bit of space in the freezer. Put water in the crock pot and crank up to high for six hours. Then, I will be working at reducing and straining all the goodness out of this stock.

I will be the first to admit that having a CSA and getting fresh veggies means more work up front. Cleaning greens, prepping veggies, roasting, and cooking takes much longer than opening a box or container and nuking it. We used to do that years ago. I am glad I have the time to do this now. Much of it can be done on weekends, and we eat lots of defrosted soups and stews from crock pot cooking.

Once all this goodness is done, the dinners and lunches will show up in posts in the next week or so. Maybe another satisfying soup like this one from a few weeks back.

If you want good organic food at a fraction of the cost of pre-packaged, you should consider one of the CSAs that deliver to Howard County. There are a number of them out there, and I find that I spend less for good fresh organic foods by subscribing to a CSA year round. From May 2011 until May 2012, I only have one week without a CSA delivery (and that will be next week).

My summer CSA starts up on May 10th, just in time to use fresh veggies for lunches and dinners. I will be picking up in Columbia this year. Just off Cedar Lane. Thursday delivery so I can still hit the farmer’s markets on Friday and Saturday to get my meats, eggs, dairy and breads. Looks like a summer with minimal grocery store visits because Howard County has a great variety of sources for fresh foods. They are updating the web page daily and adding the vendors. Check it often to see if your market day is covered yet.


Green Eggs and Ham Anyone? CSA Week 17

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Love the green eggs in the box.

We didn’t get ham, but we did get four Angus beef quarter pound burgers. Now, if it ever gets warm again, I will be grilling burgers and the asparagus from the box.

The leeks were humongous. One of them weighed 28 ounces, the two of them almost two and a half pounds.

Besides them, there were two beets. They weighed 26 ounces together.

I wanted citrus (oranges again) to make with the last of the fennel in the fridge, for a salad. And, I got some spring onions. Rounding it out were carrots. The half share, six items plus the last week of eggs. This weekend we will get our final delivery and then two weeks later we start our summer CSA, full share with Sandy Spring.

Zahradka was a good winter fit for us. A little too many potatoes, I think. In the future, I have to think about what I order when. And, I know the eggs need to get used faster. I am learning from this experience.

A nice range of veggies here, ready to be used. The beets, roasted to use with the last of the spinach and the greens from my garden.

Maybe beets and orange and spring onions with a vinaigrette. Asparagus grilled after being wrapped in Boarman’s bacon. All sorts of possibilities here.

Since it got cold again, the other half of the family wants soup, so the carrots and leeks will go into soup. I will have to stop at Roots and get celery and maybe turnips to use in a soup. I do have cranberry beans. I also have CSA sausage left in the freezer.

Looks like another week of avoiding those large chain grocery stores thanks to local farmers, Roots and Boarman’s. Who needs Giant Foods? Not me.

By the way, I stopped the other day on Howchow’s recommendation and scored a loaf of Monk Rye Bread for us, on a Friday, so they had enough left from the Thursday delivery. Soup with bread. YUM!

Soup from sausage, greens and beans


Tasting Barrels …

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… or is that barrel tasting. I forget after the 11th sample.

Today we spent a lovely day at the case club barrel tasting at Linden Vineyards.

I think everyone here knows I love Linden wines. I even have a tag in my tag clouds for them.

We have been collecting their wines for 20 years. They will drink beautifully for 10-15 years and some of them for 20. We drank our last 1990 a while back, still hanging in there.

The barrel tasting today was on a dull rainy day, not the lovely spring day we wished for.

No one out on the patio. After the tasting we ended up inside by the stove.

We tasted barrel samples of the three designated sourced Avenius, Hardscrabble, and Boisseau chardonnays. Plus the claret blend, all vintage 2011. There will be no designated reds this year, due to the huge amount of rain that we all experienced last September. The reds didn’t come to potential and will be mostly blended.

Wines from 2011 include the recently released Rose, which is made from the merlot.

We started out up in the new tasting room, the site of special events. We tasted a newly released sauvignon blanc with broiled mussels.

It has a view down into the tank room where we were tasting the claret sample. I took a couple of pics down there but in the darker venue didn’t want to use flash to bother people, and they didn’t turn out well.

Still, the whites will be good, decent wines, well made as usual. The 2008 and 2009 designated red wines were tasted side by side with very tasty paired food items from the Ashby Inn in Paris VA.

We also had a charcuterie board from Croftburn Market in Culpeper VA Their sausage made with fennel was really nice.

All in all, a lovely day, even though the weather did not cooperate. They have the most commanding view of the mountains, so I will leave you with a view from the patio a week ago, when it wasn’t raining.

MD beef with MD wine

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The grilling Saturday night special.

New York strip steaks from TLV Tree Farm. CSA peppers and onions. Wild asparagus from my yard. Pancetta bought at Roots. All getting happy on the grill at 500 degrees.

We got lucky and ate before it rained. This is a MD based dinner. Most of the food is from the Free State. A few exceptions, like the cheese from VA in the salad, and the blackberries from Costco. The blackberry vinaigrette is from Catoctin Mountain Orchards in Thurmont.

The wine: Slate, from Black Ankle Vineyards just across the county line above Mt. Airy.

The syrah adds an interesting note to what was otherwise mostly Bordeaux vinifera. Really nice, young, big wine from an up and coming Md winery.

The steaks were perfect. The peppers a good match. A low carb (relatively) meal with tons of flavor, locally sourced.

The asparagus from the yard. Awesome! I wrote about it here. And, no, it is no longer white once I exposed it to the sun. Still, a great dinner. Mostly local. Lots of it from less than 25 miles from the house.


Earth Day Here and There

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Tomorrow is Earth Day, but today the Conservancy was hosting dozens of volunteers and visitors for service projects, a plant sale by the Master Gardeners, a birding hike, and crafts projects for the little ones.

The wheel barrows were loaded and ready to go out for tree planting.

The parking lot was full of cars, on a lovely morning that cleared up to make it easy to work. Thankfully, it didn’t rain on the projects.

WR Grace brought out a group of volunteers to put in plants and mulch the entrance area, right on Old Frederick Rd. Everybody was hard at work. The Conservancy greatly appreciates their dedicated volunteers that come out to help.

I bought a few more tomato plants from the Master Gardeners. I couldn’t resist. I got two red fig and two pineapple plants. Yes, these are tomatoes. Interesting rare varieties. The red fig dates back to the 1700s, and is a pear shaped tomato. The pineapple tomato is one of my favorites. In talking to the gardeners, they said many of their heirloom seeds come from Baker Creek, which is the source for this picture.

After I left there, I ran over to TLV Tree Farms to pick up herbs for my garden. At Greenfest last week, I told them I would come out during their Saturday hours (10am – 2PM) and pick up what I needed to fill in my herb garden with new annuals and a few perennials that are getting ragged.

While there, I did pick up a couple of New York Strip Steaks to grill if the weather holds. MD steaks marinating in MD wine. What could be better?

I put the three varieties of thyme in the ground this afternoon, and left the lavender sitting in the pots until I position the basil, tarragon and marjoram that isn’t hearty enough to plant yet.

English, creeping and silver queen thyme

Lavender waiting to be planted, keeping the mint company

I also wandered around to document the blooming of my bank of azaleas along the north side of the house. They are almost the last to bloom. One more area in the northeast corner still isn’t ready. These that bloomed today are brilliant red, and some of my favorites.

What a beautiful spring day in the county. One more pic of the azaleas, because they are so brilliant. Go out and plant something!


Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

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Heirloom tomatoes.

They make me do my happy dance. I rode out to Sharp’s Farm this morning, the first morning the greenhouses are open. You have to go early to get some of the most exotic heirlooms. They are sold to many places like Brookside Gardens, the Master Gardeners and the Conservancy community gardeners, just to name a few. If you go during the first few days, you can score things like:

Chocolate Stripes
Paul Robeson

There are others. I forget how many. I believe they planted 35 varieties of heirloom tomatoes from seeds. They also have standard tomato plants, like Early Girl and Supersweet 100s.

I love the farm. I could wander around for hours.

The greenhouses are open Tuesday through Sunday. Check the hours on the web site. As I was leaving, school buses were rolling in for a field trip.

I came home and messed around a little with the heirlooms and put a few plugs of the herbs in a planter. I will be getting more once I check with my neighbor who wants what.

These plugs are Legend, Hillbilly and Chocolate Stripes, all will be put in the ground in two weeks. Right now, I will keep them out in the day and protect them in storms and wind.

It truly is spring when I get my tomato fix. Just brushing the leaves and getting the scent of tomato plants makes the anticipation of the coming harvest, two months away, even more exciting. Just think. All this waxing poetic about little green things that go in the ground.

When I came home, I harvested three wild asparagus stalks. Two more tomorrow and there will be asparagus on the menu tomorrow night.

If you want affordable plants, and can grow from plugs, you can’t beat going to Sharp’s. Or, get the pots. I got eight basil plants to go in the herb garden. All sorts of varieties. Great place to visit. And, don’t trust the sign. They hadn’t gotten up to change it at 10 am, when they opened.


Nothing to Do? Interesting Discussions.

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Around the hocosphere these past few days has floated a discussion about the lack of activities out here in the hinterlands, far from the big cities.

I have to agree with Barbara Kellner in her comments to Matt, at Lost in Columbia.

I moved here in 1975, when there really wasn’t much to do. I was 22, fresh out of college, with a low paying job, and two roommates. We did lots of free things, mostly picnicing or hiking in the parks, like Patapsco State Park. Ellicott City is where we went for a treat. Or, Laurel. Until we got Roy’s Place Too and JK’s to hang at.

The reason I bring up Laurel was triggered the other night as I flipped the TV on early to catch the news. This did it. Lionel Richie singing a song from my youth.

Why? The Adult Catholic Singles. A club started at the Interfaith Center, where my roomie dragged me to a brunch in 1979. The club went the following Friday for an evening out at Randy’s California Inn (now this really dates me here). At the Sunday brunch I first met a young man who was the host. He was also at Randy’s. He got enough courage to ask me to dance to Three Times A Lady that evening. A year later, we danced to that same song at our wedding.

We did lots of local things that dating year, and during the 1980’s as a young married couple. Lots of inexpensive things, too, while living in Columbia. Racquetball, tennis, swimming pool Sundays. Jogged Lake Elkhorn almost every day. Discovered Centennial Park.

Lots of outdoor things. We eventually found Les Amis du Vin, and learned about wine, although we could only afford the occasional tasting on our budget back then. We did discover more in Ellicott City those days, where tastings were held.

We bought our first place together in 1982, during the 14-16% interest days. Yep, we did get lucky and sold our Howard Homes camp out home (who remembers those days?) for a decent profit to get us the down payment for our new town home.

Yes, we could have bought in Montgomery County where we worked, for lots more money, less space and more traffic. More to do, close to DC, it was a tradeoff.

We had great fun in our town home. Lots of young couples just starting out. We did pot luck dinners, including an annual crab feast, New Year’s Eve Party (great idea, all you had to do was weave your way across the cul de sac), and various other themes. The town houses held a spring and fall clean up day. And, a picnic.

We got into the Howard County Rec and Park hiking programs and walked the length of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. All 42 miles of it, from High Rock to Harper’s Ferry. We did parts of the C&O Canal, too. And, various other hikes. We started these in 1989. They still do many of the same events.

Now, we spend just as much time outdoors, doing the bird walks, volunteering, gardening, walking, star gazing, and visiting the numerous wineries in the area. Friday nights at Black Ankle, for example, are a great evening out, to picnic, listen to music, as is Wine in the Woods and Wine in the Garden. I’ll be at both this year.

What could be better? Lovely locations. Good wine. Friendly people.

What other things can you think of, locally, that you do or did, in and around Howard County?


Twenty Minute Clean Up Day

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Check out Live Green Howard. Today is Twenty Minute Clean Up Day. This is the third year.

Spend twenty minutes doing something, anything that benefits you and your community by cleaning up your little influential circle in Howard County.

I can’t do much with lifting restrictions but I am spending my twenty minutes picking up trash along the guardrail on our road,

and all the paper and stuff that blows around on recycling day and ends up in our bushes. There are cans, bottles and paper all along there, and you can still reach enough of it to make a small difference. The old barbed wire fence that surrounded the horse pasture on the late 19th century farm that preceded our home being built here, is quite the trash catcher.

I also think I will wander across the road from the mailboxes and clean up the stuff people throw out of their cars there. Every little bit of cleaning helps, as we lost our Adopt A Road sponsor years ago.

If you get a chance, take a small bag and pick up the easy stuff around you. You know, the Choose Community thing is a good start.


Art Reception This Week, and Earth Day

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Two events this week at the Howard County Conservancy. The art reception and auction is tomorrow evening starting at 6 pm. I will be working the event, and who knows if I will get something to finish off the foyer. Lots of good stuff to bid on, particularly these pieces done on reclaimed wood by SOGH.

I keep hearing there is nothing to do in HoCO. For $12, come drink wine, hear entertaining judges, have some My Thyme appetizers, and maybe go home with interesting art for your place. If you have never heard Rebecca Hoffberger, you are in for a real treat. What is showing here is similar to what they are showcasing at the American Visionary Art Museum, or AVAM. All Things Round.

Then, for more to do, this weekend is Earth Day. The Conservancy has a full day planned. For singles, couples, families, retirees, whatever category that fits, there is something to do. Winter is hard on the trees and streams. Sprucing up the property in spring time means lots of little things to do. Easy to hard. Pick your pleasure. Stream cleanup, for example.

Some of us are going birding at 8 am. We may be out for two to three hours, depending on what we hear and see. We have recorded sightings of rare birds, and we have two very talented leaders. Even if you are just getting interested in what is singing in your yard, they are great to walk with. They bring the high powered scopes and generously share the sightings. We have seen eagles on the property, lots of raptors, rare sparrows, and it is spring. Can you say Orioles? We see them often. Baltimore and Orchard orioles. Here is a link to the bird club page with photos of Mt. Pleasant, the farm where the Conservancy is located.

After the bird walk, there are lots of activities that the staff are organizing. Clean up tasks, crafts for children. Check the web site if it rains. Come spend some time outdoors.


Grillin and Chillin in Locavore Style

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Today was lovely. One of those days you are glad you are retired. Cleaned up the grill. Did some yard work. And grilled up a locavore meal.

This is surf and turf Boarman’s style.

We bought two crabcakes Sunday. And four mushrooms. Split the crabcakes into the mushrooms with some Trader Joe’s mustard underneath and Old Bay sprinkled on top. Brushed with Trickling Springs butter. Grilled up off the flame.

The sausages are Boarman’s sweet Italian. Not the spicy ones.

As for the rest of the meal, it was mostly CSA foods. Potatoes, onions and the defrosted peppers, all came from Zahradka. The only non-local items here were the tomatoes, but they also were bought at Boarman’s. The bread. Sourdough from Canela, bought at Boarman’s.

I did not set foot in a grocery store to buy these foods. You can have lovely meals from small stores using local sources.

The wine: the Linden 2011 Rose made from the estate merlot grapes. 2011 was the difficult year, due to the hurricane and all the rain. Lots of good grapes that didn’t get to be great wines are being used to make light refreshing wines. This wine was a perfect match to compliment crab and pork sausage.

Doesn’t get much better than this.